This month’s Daring Cooks challenge was one I really could embrace – making and cooking with nut butters! The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.
I’ve made a nut butter once or twice before, but before this challenge, I never made much effort to make it a regular part of my routine. After this challenge, I am a changed woman. I was so happy with my nut butters (I made almond butter and peanut butter) that I not only made the required recipe for the challenge, but I also made cookies and even ice cream – both recipes I will share soon. Our daughter Brittany even made a special request for more peanut butter, saying that it was better than any of the store brands. Anytime the kids request homemade food over store-bought, that’s one for the “win” column!
I started with almond butter so that I could make one of the required recipes for the challenge – Chicken with Curried Almond Sauce. Instead of simply roasting almonds for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven (as was suggested), I instead soaked the almonds overnight in a brine and then roasted in a 175 degree oven for nearly 24 hours. (This is the method used in Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon for crispy nuts. The soaking is supposed to make the nuts easier to digest. I found that this roasting method made some of the most flavorful nuts I’ve ever had.)
To make nut butter, regardless of the type of nut, the process is essentially the same. First, pour the nuts into a bowl of a food processor. Grind the nuts until they form a paste or a butter. At first it will turn powdery or grainy. Keep processing, and it will eventually form a ball and start to “clump” to one side of the bowl. Then, as you continue processing, the nuts will finally start to release oils, and it will begin to really look like nut butter. (The total time required depends on the fat content of the nut you’re using. You have to be patient – stopping early will only result in grainy, not-quite-nut-butter.) If you’re using a “drier” nut, once it begins to turn into nut butter, you can thin it with a bit of neutral oil or an oil from the same type of nut (for example, peanut oil for peanut butter, almond oil for almond butter, etc. ). I used a bit of pecan oil in my nut butter, since I had it on hand. Use some restraint in adding oil though – you don’t want to end up with too much oil! Add a tiny bit at a time. Once this has been incorporated, then you can salt, if desired, and/or sweeten as desired, using a bit of sugar, honey, or agave nectar (what I used).
That’s it – you have nut butter! Of course, this would probably store best in the refrigerator and will likely need stirring before use. If you’re going to use it immediately for a recipe, then of course – get right to it!
This chicken recipe was delicious – something my husband and I both loved (and went back for seconds!). I followed the recipe pretty closely, only substituting olive oil for the butter, and using homemade cashew milk (I found a great recipe at Elana’s Pantry) instead of the milk. The sauce was so creamy, comforting, and satisfying. This will definitely be a repeat dish for us. I also loved that it was something I could make on a weeknight.
I’m so thankful for this challenge – I learned that it’s not hard at all to make nut butters. No more store-bought nut butters for us!
Chicken with Curried Almond Sauce, adapted from Food Network
Recipe notes: Substitute the protein of your choice for the chicken. This is a smooth sauce, so the onion is removed before serving. If you prefer, dice the onion and leave it in the sauce or substitute a bit of onion powder.
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs)
Salt to taste
1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) garam masala seasoning
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper
4 tablespoons (60 ml) butter (I used olive oil)
1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
⅓ cup (80 ml) almond butter
⅓ cup (80 ml) milk (I used cashew milk)
½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 ml) chicken broth or water, more as needed
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas (optional)
Hot basmati rice for serving (I served with short-grain brown rice)
Chopped parsley (optional garnish)
Sliced almonds (optional garnish)
- Cook the chicken. If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces; set aside on clean plate and keep warm.
- Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Melt the butter (or add the oil) in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter with onion flavor. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the butter; a little color is fine. Add the spice blend and garlic and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Whisk in almond butter and milk (or cashew milk) until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to simmer. Add broth (or water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.
- Remove onion from sauce and discard. Stir frozen peas (if using) into sauce. Transfer sliced chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.
- Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or sliced almonds if desired.